Ads Don’t Work That Way - Deepstash
Ads Don’t Work That Way

Ads Don’t Work That Way

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Brand advertising = Cultural Imprinting

Brand advertising = Cultural Imprinting

Cultural imprinting is a mechanism by which an ad changes the culture, by changing how we are perceived by others when we use a product. Cultural imprinting works because it relies on the principle of common knowledge, which means both the ads and the product usage has to be conspicuous. 

We all see the ad advertising "Corona" as the drink for chilling at the beach. And we all communicate the association to the message when we pick a Corona at a party. 

This is why cultural imprinting ads are found on billboards. And why it works for Coca-Cola but not for a bedsheet company. 


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Cultural Imprinting in Real life

Cultural Imprinting in Real life

Imagine you see an ad for a new brand of sneakers. The ad features cool people wearing the sneakers and having fun. This might make you think that if you wear those sneakers, you'll also be cool and have fun. That's cultural imprinting!

Ads don't directly tell you the sneakers are good, instead, they try to make you think that wearing them will change how other people see you. In other words, according to the article, ads don't convince you a product is great, they try to convince you that using the product will make you look great in the eyes of others.


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Cultural Imprinting vs Emotional Imprinting

Cultural Imprinting vs Emotional Imprinting

  • Emotional imprinting is the idea that ads can create positive associations between a product and feelings. These associations can influence us to buy a product later, even if we don't consciously remember the ad.
  • Cultural imprinting is about how ads change the culture by creating associations between a product and a group of people.

So, the key difference between the two is the former works on an individual level, by creating positive associations between a product and our emotions, while the later works on a societal level, by creating associations between products and social groups.


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The Alternative Ways to Advertise

Not every company can play the cultural game. Alternatives:

- Informing customers about a product: "FYI, product X exists. Here's how it works. It's available if you need it." Hopefully by repeating it enough time sales happen.

- Overt persuasion: "4/5 doctors prefer Camels" or "Verizon: America's largest 4G LTE network"

- Making promises: Guarantee or warrantees, but more often a brand image. Like Disney = "family entertainment"

- Honest signaling: an ads in a very expensive location. A huge billboard announces (subtextually), "We're willing to spend a lot of $ on this. We're committed to it."


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Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.


A compelling explanation for the psychology of brand advertising.

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